Van Lingle Mungo
June 8, 1911|
Pageland, South Carolina
|Died: February 12, 1985
Pageland, South Carolina
|September 7, 1931 for the Brooklyn Robins|
Last MLB appearance
|September 2, 1945 for the New York Giants|
|Earned run average||3.47|
Career highlights and awards
Van Lingle Mungo (June 8, 1911 – February 12, 1985) was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher known for his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mungo played for the Dodgers from 1931 to 1941 and finished his baseball career with the New York Giants.
Mungo began his career with the Charlotte Hornets when he was 18 years old. A succession of managers over the years, including Casey Stengel, was convinced that the hard-throwing right-hander would be a surefire star for years to come. These lofty expectations can be attributed in part to a phenomenal debut performance in which he shut out the Boston Braves over 9 innings, striking out 12; but he was never able to live up to his perceived potential. While he finished his career with two 18-win seasons, one of them also included 19 losses. Mungo's teammates contended that he could easily have won more games had he not tried to strike out every batter; Mungo countered that he wouldn't have tried to strike everyone out if he had more confidence in his teammates' fielding abilities.
Mungo averaged 16 wins per season from 1932 through 1936, and led the National League in strikeouts with 238 in 1936. He was named to the All-Star team in 1934, 1936, and 1937. Though his strikeout counts were impressive, he also led the league in walks several times. Following an arm injury in 1937 he won only 13 games over the next six seasons. After a spring training injury in 1943 he was released by the Dodgers and played his final season with the Giants. He completed his major league career with a 120-115 won-lost record over 2113 innings pitched and a 3.47 earned run average.
Stories and anecdotes about Mungo tend to emphasize his reputation for combativeness, including episodes of drinking and fighting. "Mungo and I got along just fine," reported Casey Stengel, his manager on the Dodgers. "I won't stand for no nonsense, and then I duck." The most widely told story concerns a visit to Cuba where, supposedly, Mungo was caught in a compromising position with a married woman by her husband. Mungo punched the husband in the eye, leading him to attack Mungo with a butcher knife or machete, requiring Dodgers executive Babe Hamberger to smuggle Mungo in a laundry cart to a seaplane waiting off a wharf in order to escape the country.
Van Mungo wasn't just a pistol off the field; on the field he was bent towards conflict with his teammates and managers. There are several stories of run-ins and conflict with his teammates and managers. Once while he was protecting a small margin of victory, outfielder Tom Winsett botched a routine fly-ball that cost Mungo a victory. Mungo retreated to the dugout and clubhouse to destroy what he could destroy and throw into the field of play what he could not destroy. Mungo sent his wife a telegram stating the following: ¨Pack up your bags and come to Brooklyn, honey. If Winsett can play in the big leagues, it's a cinch you can, too." It is also true that Van Lingle Mungo probably paid more in fines than any player of his era, amassing a grand total (in his own estimation) of over $15,000.
Mungo returned to the public eye in 1969 because of the use of his prosodic name as the title of a novelty song by Dave Frishberg. The song lyrics consist entirely of the names of baseball players of the 1940s, strung together to a bossa nova beat. Mungo is one of only five players mentioned more than once and his name functions as a kind of refrain. According to Frishberg, The Dick Cavett Show arranged to have him sing the song to Mungo in person, and Mungo asked him backstage if there would ever be any financial remuneration for the use of his name in the song. Frishberg told him no, but maybe Mungo could make some money if he wrote a song called "Dave Frishberg". Ironically, today Mungo is remembered primarily because of the song.
Van Lingle Mungo may also be remembered as one of the unfortunate baseball pitchers in history who never played on a team with equal talent to his and thus never was able to attain a win loss record equal to his talent level. More famous for his managerial career, former pitcher Tommy Lasorda was given the nickname "Mungo" because of his "lightning fastball" and his ability to strike batters out.
Mungo returned to his hometown of Pageland, South Carolina after retiring in 1944, and lived there until his death in 1985. He purchased and operated a movie house called the Ball Theatre, and had a balcony built to accommodate people of color, who had previously been denied access to the facility. The Ball burned down in the 1950s and was never rebuilt.
- List of Major League Baseball strikeout champions
- List of Major League Baseball shutout champions
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career ERA
- "Van Mungo Statistics and History". baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- "Van Lingle Mungo". baseballlibrary.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- "Van Lingle Mungo by David Frishberg". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
- Cohen, A. (May 25, 2014). The Van Lingle Mungo Story. wordpress.com archive. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- BaseballLibrary - biography and career highlights
- Historic Baseball - biographical note
- Lyrics to Dave Frishberg's song "Van Lingle Mungo"
- The Deadball Era
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